Thumb Dislocation

ExitCare ImageThumb dislocation is the displacement of the large bone of your thumb (metacarpal) from the socket that connects it to your hand. Very strong, fibrous tissues (ligaments) connect your thumb metacarpal to a bone in your hand at your thumb joint. Dislocation is caused by a forceful impact to your thumb. This impact moves your thumb metacarpal off your thumb joint and often tears your ligaments. Thumb dislocation usually occurs on the back (dorsal) side of your thumb.


Symptoms of thumb dislocation include:

  • Noticeable deformity of your thumb.

  • Pain, with loss of movement.

  • Weakened grip between your thumb and your index finger.

  • Looseness in the joint, indicating a tear of the ligaments.


Thumb dislocation is diagnosed with a physical exam. Often, X-ray exams are done to see if you have associated injuries, such as bone fractures.


Thumb dislocations are treated by putting your bones back into position (reduction) either by manually moving the bones back into place or through surgery. Your thumb is then kept in a fixed position (immobilized) with the use of a plaster cast or splint for 4 to 6 weeks.

When your ligament has to be surgically repaired, it needs to be kept in a fixed position with a plaster cast or splint for 6 weeks. Hand exercises or physical therapy to maintain the range of motion and to regain strength is usually started as soon as the ligament is healed. Exercises and therapy generally last no more than 3 months.


The following measures can help to reduce pain and speed up the healing process:

  • Rest your injured joint. Do not move it. Avoid activities similar to the one that caused your injury.

  • Apply ice to your injured joint for the first day or 2 after your reduction or as directed by your caregiver. Applying ice helps to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, every 2 hours while you are awake.

  • Elevate your hand above your heart as directed by your caregiver.

  • Take over-the-counter or prescription medicine for pain as your caregiver instructs you.


  • Your cast becomes damaged.

  • Your pain becomes worse rather than better.

  • You lose feeling in your thumb or cannot move the tip of your thumb.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.